The Center for Eating Disorders Blog

Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder: Q&A with Johanna S. Kandel

Each year in February, The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt kicks-off National Eating Disorder Awareness Week  with a special event designed to shed light on the serious nature of eating disorders.  This year, we are excited to host Johanna Kandel who will present a free talk for the community entitled “Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder” on Sunday February 20th, 2011.  Johanna is an author and the Executive Director of The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness. She will not only be helping to spread awareness and education about eating disorders but she will share her own inspiring story of recovery and hope.   In advance of her arrival in Baltimore, we asked Johanna to provide us with a glimpse into her experience with the recovery process. Read her responses below and visit our Events page to RSVP for her talk in Baltimore on February 20th.

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Q & A with JOHANNA S. KANDEL ~ Part 1

Q: In the preface to your book you quote a philosopher who said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Why is this an important message for individuals who are struggling and what was your first step towards recovery?

JK: Recovery from an eating disorder is definitely a journey that happens one step at a time.  It doesn’t happen overnight and it is not perfect.  When I became so sick and tired of being sick and tired, and when the pain of living with my eating disorder exceeded my fear of recovering, I knew that it was time to do whatever it took to start the process of recovery.  The first step I took was reaching out to my parents and asking them for what I needed most of all: help.  However, the idea of changing everything right away was way too scary. I had to remember to take it one moment at a time.  And if I tripped along the way, I had to pick myself up, dust myself up, and keep on stepping.

Q: Was there a time during your illness that you knew something was wrong but you convinced yourself that you had everything under control?  If so, how did you eventually break free from that thought process?

JK: Ah, control…the famous word!  I have to say that when it came to control, my eating disorder pulled a ‘bait and switch’ on me.  At first it lured me in with its promises of feeling like I had ultimate control, but very quickly I realized that the eating disorder was the one in control (while garnering a path of self-destruction).  For so many years, my negative voice was the only thing I heard.  My healthy voice was only a distant whisper and seemed liked a complete stranger.  Learning how to first press the “pause” button and then the ‘stop’ button {when the negative thoughts were taking over my thought process} is what allowed me to ultimately break free.

Q: There are several very meaningful yet funny parts in your book – the body armor incident to name just one – did humor play a role in your recovery?

JK: Absolutely!  Surprisingly to me, I found myself laughing quite a bit throughout my journey.  After not laughing at all during my battle with the eating disorder, it was strange at first, but then I began to embrace it.  I learned to how to use laughter as another tool in my recovery toolbox. It was so interesting to see just how many times laughter got me through potentially triggering situations and became an ally.

Q: What were your greatest fears about recovery and moving beyond your eating disorder?

JK: I had so many fears about recovering from my eating disorder.  In fact, it was the fear that stood in the way of my recovery for so long.  It was my security blanket and I didn’t know how to cope or live without it.  I was afraid to live without my eating disorder because I didn’t know who I was without it.  I was afraid of dealing with my emotions, I was scared of feeling, and I was petrified of using my voice. I was also so incredibly scared that recovery (and all the hard work it would entail) would not be worth it.  As I began to walk through my fears and take very small risks, I realized that I could live without my eating disorder and that I was so much more than just that.  I started feeling again and it was (although scary at first) so incredibly wonderful.  I learned that I had a voice that deserved to be heard and I became pretty comfortable using it.  And finally, I can say with 100% conviction that recovery was without a doubt the best thing I ever did.

Part 2 of the interview with Johanna Kandel is now up!  Click HERE to read about her top 3 recovery tools and how she re-discovered herself without the eating disorder.  Can you relate to Johanna’s experience above?  What parts of Johanna’s message have played an important role in your journey to recovery?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our facebook page.

Download the Event Flyer:   Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder ~ JKandel 2.20.11 event (pdf)

Johanna’s book, Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder is available for purchase at Barnes &

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